• jess

Where Depression and CPTSD collide, we reside.

Oh lawd, there’s a topic that I’ve kindof avoided for the past year… I mean, how do you even get started with discussing an aspect of your life that has either been your secret companion or your captive tormentor for the past 30 years?


Depression.


My history with depression is long and pervasive to an extent that it makes me dizzy to try to logically analyze it. My experiences with depression are essentially difficult to separate from my experiences with breathing.


I don't know when it started or if it will ever stop. I don’t know what pieces of my personality are actually remnants of depression, or how to describe my physical vitality when it fluctuates from over-the-top-zest-for-life to please-just-leave-me-here-to-die.


Even today, as I write from a “largely not-depressed state,” I’m aware that this statement is completely relative. Anyone who has somehow escaped from this aspect of life would probably get one peek inside my inner landscape, see the bubbling shit pits, and declare that it’s a horrific place to live.


Even today, as I write from a “largely not-depressed state,” I’m aware that this statement is completely relative. Anyone who has somehow escaped from this aspect of life would probably get one peek inside my inner landscape, see the bubbling shit pits, and declare that it’s a horrific place to live.

From my perspective, though, it’s a sunny day among the rotting puddles of my own self-evaluative processes! It’s not raining down burning streams of excrement AKA - I’m not thinking of the most preferable ways to kill myself - so the forecast looks bright from here! Picnic time.


Yeah… in short, I’m probably always experiencing some degree of clinical depression… but it all seems so normal to me that I don’t identify it as such. I just call myself a prickly, semi-pessimistic, generally self-hating asshole and move on with my day. Nothing new to see here.


I CAN tell you that my first depression diagnosis took place when I was 12 years old or so. My mom made me see some free counselor in the midst of my dad being removed from our home.. I wasn’t acting out or self-harming, but apparently she thought it was a good idea for all of us kids to go talk to someone after our father was lawfully taken out of the picture.


They tried to put me on anti-depressants at that stage… which, even as a fucking pre-pubescent kid, I considered to be a bad idea. I had already seen my brother and my father torture themselves on the rollercoaster ride of trying to find an effective anti-depressant cocktail. No thanks. Even in the 20 years that have passed, I never have tried them, to be honest with you. No judgement if you have.


Throughout my teenage years, shit was always rough in my head. Don’t get me wrong, I accomplished everything I needed to thanks to that generational trauma of always proving your worth and my learned role as the “easy-kid” in my toxic family. But the entire time as I sat in class, worked menial retail jobs, and learned about navigating the world through punker lenses, I felt goddamn disparate from my peers.


Throughout my teenage years, shit was always rough in my head. Don’t get me wrong, I accomplished everything I needed to thanks to that generational trauma of always proving your worth and my learned role as the “easy-kid” in my toxic family. But the entire time as I sat in class, worked menial retail jobs, and learned about navigating the world through punker lenses, I felt goddamn disparate from my peers.

I was deeply entangled with thoughts of being alone, worthless, and wrong in every way. I felt doomed to live a miserable life. I was overwhelmed with the big, painful emotions that no one wanted to talk about at home and no one knew about in public. I dreamt of ending my life more days than not.


Those feelings have come and gone over the years - generally, getting stuck in a “fuckthisImout” subterranean prison for a few weeks or months at a time before finally breaking through the invisible ceiling. Finally, I wind up taking another evaluative look around and deciding it’s worth actually trying again?… maybe?… because what’s the other option?


This determination carries me from depression to depression, but never persistently spares me from falling back into the dank underbelly of my defeatist thoughts.


The depth of my depression is variable, depending largely on the presence or absence of supportive factors in my life and how fulfilled I am in my activities. The quality of my personal relationships has a lot of clout. My perceptions of serving a function in life or being worth my weight in burial costs play a large role. My evaluations of living up to expectations and having love in my life often make or break my mental health.


The depth of my depression is variable, depending largely on the presence or absence of supportive factors in my life and how fulfilled I am in my activities. The quality of my personal relationships has a lot of clout. My perceptions of serving a function in life or being worth my weight in burial costs play a large role. My evaluations of living up to expectations and having love in my life often make or break my mental health.

And, I will admit, (secretly, don't tell anyone) Fuckers, sometimes I actually feel optimistic and happy to be me.


But trust me, it doesn't last. The depression is always there, waiting around the next corner to make me redact that precariously-balanced thought.


So, to jump into this long, drawn out analysis of depression that makes my head spin… I’m going to do it through the lens of examining the crossover between depression and Complex Trauma.


Let's talk about the hallmarks of PTSD that overlap with depression, and how the two persistently pervade and support each other. Because, hey, it’s not enough to live your life in fear and survival system-activation; we might as well feel like lazy, worthless assholes while we do it!


This is life on Complex Trauma and Depression.




Avoidance, Isolation, and Self-brutality


I’ve spoken a lot recently about the role of avoidant behavior in Trauma sufferers. I guess my ABA education is making me consider the concept pretty regularly. In short, it’s not really a surprise, after a traumatic event we learn extreme behaviors to try to avoid the possibility of a similarly undesirable consequence in the future. Uh, duh. Operant conditioning in the real world.


In other words, we don’t want to be threatened, violated, or injured again… so our repertoire of behaviors starts to adapt to avoid all the stimuli that previously lead to those negative consequences. Our brain, as always, is trying to keep us safe. But, functionally, we wind up limiting ourselves to a short range of activities and maladaptive coping mechanisms in our plight for avoidance.


In other words, we don’t want to be threatened, violated, or injured again… so our repertoire of behaviors starts to adapt to avoid all the stimuli that previously lead to those negative consequences. Our brain, as always, is trying to keep us safe. But, functionally, we wind up limiting ourselves to a short range of activities and maladaptive coping mechanisms in our plight for avoidance.

No shocker here - avoidance plays a big role in depression. Especially through our trials in isolation.




Pre-existing conditions


Really quickly, I want to touch on the straight-up environmental factors that contribute to avoidance and isolation.


I probably don’t need to tell you, there are components of our early Traumatized lives that make us more susceptible to depression down the road. Here, I’m mainly focused on the sociological and mental health factors at play… but don’t get it twisted, there are objective, external factors that have some crossover, as well.


Namely, socio-economic factors have a big place in early Trauma and lifelong depressive triggers, just as early neglect and abuse do.


If you live in a marginalized neighborhood. If you could only get the education that enables you to acquire unsettling, abusive jobs. If you chronically live in a state of financial uncertainty or poverty…. It’s undisputable. You’re going to be more at-risk for depression AND further trauma down the road. Unless you reach a state of independent wealth (and good for you, if that’s the case, asshole) the same ACEs that lead to your C-PTSD will probably circle back again to stir the pot with variable frequency.


If you live in a marginalized neighborhood. If you could only get the education that enables you to acquire unsettling, abusive jobs. If you chronically live in a state of financial uncertainty or poverty…. It’s undisputable. You’re going to be more at-risk for depression AND further trauma down the road. Unless you reach a state of independent wealth (and good for you, if that’s the case, asshole) the same ACEs that lead to your C-PTSD will probably circle back again to stir the pot with variable frequency.

In my own life, I can tell you that being raised in poverty didn’t do me any favors. To this day, I struggle with financial security - even when it’s partially a figment of my imagination. I’m always more concerned about my money than I need to be, because I learned that it can all be taken away in the blink of an eye.


Functionally, it means I never want to spend extra money. I don’t get out and do fun things very often. I don’t treat myself to regular spending of any sort. If left to my own devices, I will sit at home alone because essentially everything else costs money. I would rather hoard cash and do nothing.


This financial obsession limits my opportunities for socializing, sparking a more sunny perspective, and immersion therapy with all the things that scare me in the world. It increases my opportunities for getting preoccupied with what a turd I am, and how my life is predetermined to be a constant struggle. So, that really helps.


Even worse, when I’m in a financially-lacking state, I’m highly triggered; terrified of ending up on the streets like my oldest brother did. I shut myself inside and I refuse to do anything at all. A $2 cup of coffee? No fucking thanks, I’ll need that for a gallon of gas someday. A $10 movie? Fuck you, I’d rather stare at a blank wall than waste what-would-have-been wages for 2 hours of my life when I worked retail.

Even worse, when I’m in a financially-lacking state, I’m highly triggered; terrified of ending up on the streets like my oldest brother did. I shut myself inside and I refuse to do anything at all. A $2 cup of coffee? No fucking thanks, I’ll need that for a gallon of gas someday. A $10 movie? Fuck you, I’d rather stare at a blank wall than waste what-would-have-been wages for 2 hours of my life when I worked retail.


When you don’t feel like you have the means to live like a human, you stop acting like one. And a lot of my depression is spawned by self-imparted seclusion and intrusive thoughts of counting my dollars, my expenses, and dreaming up unpredictable financial disasters.


When you don’t feel like you have the means to live like a human, you stop acting like one. And a lot of my depression is spawned by self-imparted seclusion and intrusive thoughts of counting my dollars, my expenses, and dreaming up unpredictable financial disasters.

To take things one step further - under these conditions, you’re not very likely to seek psychological help. For, oh, 28 years I couldn’t afford to see a therapist. Pay my bills or see a shrink for 45 minutes once a month? Uh, easy question. I’ll stay right here and continue to live in constant fear and upset.


How do you think my mental health fared while I was simultaneously tortured and helpless to ask for professional insight from the only people who might understand for nearly three decades? Yeah, you probably have a good idea, because a lot of us are in the same sinking boat.


Anyways, enough about me, the point is… the external circumstances of childhood Trauma persist into adulthood a good deal of the time. And they aren’t helping us with PTSD, depression, anxiety, or any of the other mental illnesses that come riding along.


Cool, onto the mental fuckery.




Feeling unwanted/undesirable/inept


When you’ve experienced some social shortcoming, what is your response? Mine is to withdraw. To pull my hat out of the ring before I encounter another social slight or perceived failure as part of this species. To avoid the potential of another disappointing, painful, or self-critic-igniting experience.


And so, I shut the fuck down. Lock myself away. Tell myself that it’s best to just keep my shitty self away from all the other shitty selves out there in the world. No one needs my shit added onto their own pile of garbage. And beyond that, I can’t take another personal letdown, myself. It might be my last.


So, instead of making plans with friends, answering my text messages, or engaging with my peers, I try to hide. I want to disappear from the social universe entirely. I don’t want to risk making another mistake or developing those pesky *feelings* for another living thing, when they can easily be leveraged against me down the line.


So, instead of making plans with friends, answering my text messages, or engaging with my peers, I try to hide. I want to disappear from the social universe entirely. I don’t want to risk making another mistake or developing those pesky *feelings* for another living thing, when they can easily be leveraged against me down the line.

It’s best just to isolate. To stay in my apartment or my bedroom. To keep my hands off my phone. To let everyone heal from all the damage I’ve caused. To accost myself for the social shortcomings that make my life while I wait for the whole shitty thing to end.


Traumatized Motherfuckers learned from an early age that there’s something “wrong” with them. Because we’re self-evaluative species that rely on social behaviors to survive, we have this “looking glass self” that develops at an early age to help us understand our social lives.


As such, when little kids are hurt by the people who are supposed to care for them the most, they learn to internalize the events. We feel as though we caused our circumstances somehow - the abuse, neglect, or rejection - it all has to be a reflection on us, as individuals.


As such, when little kids are hurt by the people who are supposed to care for them the most, they learn to internalize the events. We feel as though we caused our circumstances somehow - the abuse, neglect, or rejection - it all has to be a reflection on us, as individuals.

Clearly, it doesn’t help when we have verbally-abusive influences to overtly tell us that this is the case, either. Being bullied by parents, siblings, or peers at a young age also teaches us that our negative experiences are our fault. We’re unwanted, undesirable, unlovable. We will probably even go so far as to create reasons for this to be the case. “Too emotional, too needy, too loud, too quiet, too weird, too annoying, too ugly, too fat, too ginger, too buck-toothed…” (yeah, the last few were explicitly my bullying narratives, sorry).


Over the course of years, we start to feel like we’re just born the wrong way. Missing some important attributes or plagued with characteristics that other people can’t stand. It’s best to just keep away. We silently stew in our conditions, trying to make sense of the world and the role we play in it. But all signs indicate that we’re the most hated character in the play. Now, it’s our job to figure out how to stay off-stage so the more important actors aren’t disturbed and the audience stops booing.


And so, we learn to isolate. Keep quiet. Keep your head down. Keep your problems away from everyone else. Shut yourself inside. Lie in the dark. Let your brain and body rot.

And so, we learn to isolate. Keep quiet. Keep your head down. Keep your problems away from everyone else. Shut yourself inside. Lie in the dark. Let your brain and body rot.


This, of course, causes more mental illness and maladaptive coping strategies. More on that later.




Feeling alone


Similar, but taking things just a tad further… When you spend months or years in isolation, secretly punishing yourself for deduced missteps, what happens? Oh, you feel completely alone and individually fucked?


Yeah, that’s it.


As if it wasn’t torturous enough to wallow in your self-hatred and perceived failures 24/7 - how about we throw in some perceptions of being the only one who feels this way?


Might as well tell yourself that you’re the only person who feels so down and out that they’d rather just be down in the earth and out of everyone’s way. The sole member of the painfully uncomfortable feelings club. The only human who goes through terrible breakups, friendship dissolution, and workplace exile.


Might as well tell yourself that you’re the only person who feels so down and out that they’d rather just be down in the earth and out of everyone’s way. The sole member of the painfully uncomfortable feelings club. The only human who goes through terrible breakups, friendship dissolution, and workplace exile.

You start to live ship-wrecked on a desert island of your own making. You don’t see other people, so you don’t have the chance for positive social interactions to challenge your negative self-evaluations. You don’t go anywhere, so you lack the opportunity for fun experiences to reignite your interest in… anything. You don’t hear other perspectives, so you can’t challenge yourself to reconsider your doomsday narratives.


If you aren’t seeing other humans. If you aren’t talking about your mental state. If you aren’t opening up about what’s really going on with you... You feel completely alone in this battle of you versus the world. And, as a social animal, that’s going to drive you further into depression.


If you aren’t seeing other humans. If you aren’t talking about your mental state. If you aren’t opening up about what’s really going on with you... You feel completely alone in this battle of you versus the world. And, as a social animal, that’s going to drive you further into depression.

The thing is, the battle is actually you versus your head, and when you get stuck with no companionship outside of the voice that dominates your shitty thoughts, things get pretty brutal. Again, more on that later.


Long story short, isolation and loneliness are go-to emotional states for Traumatized Motherfuckers because of depression AND as a predisposing condition for depression. Try to untangle the two - I’ll wait.




Compounding effects


The point I’m trying to make here is, isolation and loneliness are negative consequences of choosing the avoidant behaviors that Trauma imparts to protect us.


After a lifetime of feeling like we’re in danger - physically or socially (and, evolutionarily, one is really the same as the other) - we’ve developed the self-defensive tendency to hide out and wait for the danger to pass. Unfortunately, some aspects of life, like striving for socialization and financial security, generally will never pass.


There will always be rises and falls in our social lives, work lives, and self-perceptions. Trying to avoid the uncomfortable lulls doesn’t work. It only works to temporarily keep instances of future self-brutalization and disappointment at bay... while effectively reinforcing the same negative effects from similar events in the past as we loll around all day in mental anguish.


There will always be rises and falls in our social lives, work lives, and self-perceptions. Trying to avoid the uncomfortable lulls doesn’t work. It only works to temporarily keep instances of future self-brutalization and disappointment at bay... while effectively reinforcing the same negative effects from similar events in the past as we loll around all day in mental anguish.

Instead of living in the present, dealing with hard feelings as they emerge and moving on, we sit inside by ourselves and give ourselves lots of time to live in the past. Ruminating on faulty memories and self-judgements that have probably been skewed to paint us in an even uglier light. All alone. Bored. Uncomfortable. Trapped with our least favorite person - ourselves - and feeling convinced that we’re the only broken humans who struggle in these ways.


Isolation creates more isolation. Loneliness compounds on itself. And both of these terrible states of being are both causative and effective to Trauma responses. It’s an endless cycle.





Self evaluation/inner critic/shame


Like I already stated, as social creatures we learn early on to start gauging our social safety based on what we see from others. We try to understand their responses to us in order to figure out the correct social norms and appropriate behaviors for ourselves, based on how others perceive us. Obviously, this is #1) not very accurate and #2) bad news for anyone who comes to the party with a pocket-full of reasons for a historically negative self-perception.


As we live and learn, we start to develop more complexities in this self-evaluation area. Not only are we figuring out how we fit into the social network of the world, but we’re trying to deduce our own self-worth and course-correct when it seems like we aren’t meeting expectations.


As we live and learn, we start to develop more complexities in this self-evaluation area. Not only are we figuring out how we fit into the social network of the world, but we’re trying to deduce our own self-worth and course-correct when it seems like we aren’t meeting expectations.

This is a recipe for disaster in a culture where no one talks about how to settle up uncomfortable emotions and social standards are relatively shallow. Because it’s a very independent culture - at least here in the US and throughout many other industrialized countries that focus on competition and self-sufficient strength - we’re lacking in the emotional and social tools that we need to prosper.


Thanks to our upbringing and socialization, we don’t know how to identify or name negative emotions, we don’t know how to keep our eyes off the other lane, and we don’t know how to overcome real or imagined social strife with efficiency.


We’re good at making up our own stories based on spotty information. These stories tend to get away with us and turn molehills into mountains. It’s easy to make imaginary enemies - externally and internally.


For Motherfuckers like us, the situation is further complicated by the challenges I discussed earlier; coming from fucked up families and trying to understand why our early relationships are neglectful or abusive. As you would expect (and have probably lived), we’re a bit trigger-happy with believing that other folks dislike us and assigning blame in the mirror.

For Motherfuckers like us, the situation is further complicated by the challenges I discussed earlier; coming from fucked up families and trying to understand why our early relationships are neglectful or abusive. As you would expect (and have probably lived), we’re a bit trigger-happy with believing that other folks dislike us and assigning blame in the mirror.


Since we don’t have the emotional or social tools to deal with perceived social unsafety - again, even more so than our “normal” counterparts, thanks to our dysfunctional upbringing surrounded by generational trauma - we internalize all of it.


And then what?




Feeling hated by others


Have a hiccup in one of your social interactions lately? Snap at someone? Exchange some harsh words? Have a day when you just weren’t in your body, or weren’t in the fucking mood, for so-and-so’s normal bullshit? Maybe, just sense that something is wrong with one of your best friends or significant other?


What do you do?


Do we tend to sit down with the other party, kindly probe into what was going on, and, if necessary, ask for the opportunity to do better in the future? Or do we shut down, hide away, mourn the loss of another loved one, and beat ourselves senseless as we ruminate over the ways that we can’t do anything right and shouldn’t be let out of our cages?


For me, it’s the second one. Even when I’ve tried to enact the first strategy… well… I’m not very skilled in making it work. Even if they tell me that everything is cool and I don’t need to worry, I don’t believe them. I’m convinced that there’s MORE to it. That I already screwed the pooch. Then, I feel like an even bigger failure than before and revert to pattern number two, anyways. Always ready for fight/flight/freeze/fawn… not very good at preparing myself for genuine reconciliations with solid boundaries.


In general, I probably think people are mad at me about 97% of the time. If I haven’t heard from you in a few weeks, if you haven’t responded to my message in 2 hours, if I’m just in a bad mood and you make a comment that sits poorly… fuck it, you hate me, and why wouldn’t you. I’m the worst. I’m sorry for everything I’ve ever done. I’ll leave you alone and go lick my wounds now.


In general, I probably think people are mad at me about 97% of the time. If I haven’t heard from you in a few weeks, if you haven’t responded to my message in 2 hours, if I’m just in a bad mood and you make a comment that sits poorly… fuck it, you hate me, and why wouldn’t you. I’m the worst. I’m sorry for everything I’ve ever done. I’ll leave you alone and go lick my wounds now.

That’s just the start of it, though. After the potentially one-sided falling out comes the months of self-conflict. Feeling totally defeated, useless, and exhausted while I lay around and replay all the interactions that I’ve decided to torment myself with.


Fun fact - rumination is literally the process of regurgitating food and re-swallowing it. And that’s a very astute description for my favorite coping method when I feel socially unsupported. Essentially bringing up the same mouthful over and over again, choking myself on the burning bile and partially-masticated remnants of the meal I cooked for myself.


Let me count the ways that everything is completely my fault. Let me look at events from every other perspective so I can figure out a way that my well-intended actions led to all the suffering I’m feeling now. Let me worry about how the other party is feeling, create a set of downtrodden circumstances for them, and then let my empathy take over, so I can punch myself in the head for the vivid details that I imagined. I suck, everyone is always upset with me, and I deserve it.


Yep. As Traumatized Motherfuckers, we don’t need any help doubting our place in the social hierarchy. And depression gives us the perfect set of conditions to really dig down deep into our assigned-blame, paranoia, and codependency while we lounge around in isolation, exhausted all day and wide awake all night, with nothing else to focus on.


Yep. As Traumatized Motherfuckers, we don’t need any help doubting our place in the social hierarchy. And depression gives us the perfect set of conditions to really dig down deep into our assigned-blame, paranoia, and codependency while we lounge around in isolation, exhausted all day and wide awake all night, with nothing else to focus on.

Or, vice versa. What comes first, the assumed-hate or the interpersonal Trauma? I can’t say. I don’t know any differently. Sorry if I made you mad while discussing this issue. I understand if you never want to talk to me again.


Jk.


Point is, feeling hated by others is a go-to state of being. And it doesn’t help brighten dark days.




Feeling hated by self


If it wasn’t clear already, and I’m sure it has been, another key component of both depression and Complex Trauma is low self-worth.


We were raised to be in the background, cast aside so our families could focus on their unique brands of abuse, dysfunction, and interpersonal drama. We were parented by shame and critique. We were largely on the outside of the prosperous social circles that dominate our society.


We were raised to be in the background, cast aside so our families could focus on their unique brands of abuse, dysfunction, and interpersonal drama. We were parented by shame and critique. We were largely on the outside of the prosperous social circles that dominate our society.

Soo… self-esteem wasn’t exactly in the cards.


When you’re trying to understand your place in the world… and the world keeps telling you that you have no right to even be here… well, you don’t develop a favorable opinion of yourself. You start whispering, “Why do you have to be that way? Why do you fuck everything up? What is wrong with you?” every time a new event rattles your cage. That young, answer-seeking voice in your head doesn’t fade with time. In fact, it only gets louder and more assured as life validates your original hypothesis; “I suck, everything is wrong with me, there’s a reason why all of these things have happened.”


You know this voice. You’ve heard it before. It’s a common topic for Traumatized Motherfuckers. You guessed right - it’s your Inner Critic! In the community, we’ve started calling her PAM, for Pissing and Moaning, or Karen, for being a massive cunt.


Our Inner Critics love to hate us. They want us to know that we’re bad, we’re broken, we’re disgusting. We’re the cause of all evil in the world. And we’re never going to change. Nothing is. There’s no point in even trying because this is the way it’s always going to be, because you are who you are, darlin.


So, when you’re already partially consumed with deciding how much everyone in your life hates you, don’t forget to round out the conversation by filling in the blanks with how much they should hate you. All the things that you deserve punishment for. All the reasons you’re no good for anyone and you never could be.

So, when you’re already partially consumed with deciding how much everyone in your life hates you, don’t forget to round out the conversation by filling in the blanks with how much they should hate you. All the things that you deserve punishment for. All the reasons you’re no good for anyone and you never could be.


Now you can really have a fun conversation in your head! Play multiple roles. Have hypothetical arguments. Make sure that all of them come back to the main point; you’re the one who fucked everything up. You’re gross. You’re crazy. You’re not right.


If you have any doubts about how you personally cause all the unfortunate events that plague your life, don’t worry, your inner critic will be sure to fill in all the blanks. You can still find energy to rage against the opposing parties, but ultimately, the talk will circle back to your shortcomings again. The reasons why - maybe it was unfair of them to ditch you out of the blue - but at the end of the day, you were too broken for them to have any other choice.


You’ll have plenty of time to talk to your inner critic while you lay in bed, stare at the ceiling, and try to dull your senses day after day in a long bout of depression. When you consider trying to crawl out from this dark, dank hole, your inner critic will remind you that you can’t do it and you don’t deserve to.

You’ll have plenty of time to talk to your inner critic while you lay in bed, stare at the ceiling, and try to dull your senses day after day in a long bout of depression. When you consider trying to crawl out from this dark, dank hole, your inner critic will remind you that you can’t do it and you don’t deserve to.


Don’t call a friend or your therapist - just lie around and hate yourself, hate your circumstances for doing this to you, and hate your parents for putting you on this planet in the first place.


Thanks, Trauma!




Comparison


No discussion of inner turmoil and social assumptions would be complete if we didn’t touch on everyone’s favorite torture device - comparison!


If you weren't feeling bad enough about yourself before - and you probably were - why not throw more fuel on the fire? Start gathering patchy evidence and making up missing data points to form a beautiful picture of everyone you know (or used to know), so you can reaaaaallly think about what a failure you are, in contrast.


If you weren't feeling bad enough about yourself before - and you probably were - why not throw more fuel on the fire? Start gathering patchy evidence and making up missing data points to form a beautiful picture of everyone you know (or used to know), so you can reaaaaallly think about what a failure you are, in contrast.

You had a self-imposed falling out with your best friends five years ago? Well, I wonder what they’re up to right now. I bet it’s fucking great. I bet they have a lot of goddamn fun all the time. It’s probably a whirlwind of positive life events, accomplishments, and love. I bet they look fucking amazing while they do it.


And meanwhile, what have you accomplished? Mostly getting Cheeto powder all over your six-months unwashed sheets? Streamed a lot of buzzworthy Netflix series that you didn’t pay attention to, because the voice in your head was too busy screaming like a maniac? Ruined your job? Forgot about your academic aspirations? Put a solid ten pounds on your body - exclusively centered around your FUPA?


Yeah, things are going great over here, too….


So, again, as social creatures who love to interpret our place in the universe based on what everyone else is up to… we’re good at comparison. As Traumatized Motherfuckers, we’ve probably gotten really good at spotting the differences between ourselves and the fancy *well-adapted* people all around us. And we hate them for it. Almost as much as - you guessed it - we hate ourselves for it.


Besides, a lot of us learned to study others and compare their actions to our own in order to learn basic skills. I can tell you, no one in my family taught me how to socialize, hold a job, or generally behave in any functional way. I had to learn my social norms from strangers and peers. Down the road, I’m still watching my friends and enemies to figure out how I’m supposed to “human” the right way. When I see that they’re having an easy, breezy, beautiful time with their office jobs and family relations, how do you think I feel?


Besides, a lot of us learned to study others and compare their actions to our own in order to learn basic skills. I can tell you, no one in my family taught me how to socialize, hold a job, or generally behave in any functional way. I had to learn my social norms from strangers and peers. Down the road, I’m still watching my friends and enemies to figure out how I’m supposed to “human” the right way. When I see that they’re having an easy, breezy, beautiful time with their office jobs and family relations, how do you think I feel?

If your spiteful one-sided conversations weren’t colorful enough before, be sure to really drive the point home by finding explicit examples of all the ways you aren’t keeping pace with your peers. Disregard all the extenuating circumstances and personal differences. Beat yourself over the head with their financial and stable stability.


As a result, close the blinds so no one sees what you’re up to. Shove the dishes under your bed so you can ignore the rotting food particles. Eat more Cheetos to dull the pain.


Whatever you do, don’t close that social media app and don’t do anything that would actually take you one step closer to living a life you don’t hate. It wouldn’t matter, even if you tried. Everyone else is doing it better than you.


Comparison.




Perseverant thinking


At the root of all these ongoing monologues about self-fuckery, what’s going on? Just some good old perseverant thinking. What’s that? A fancy word for all the ruminating that I already touched on.


We Traumatized Motherfuckers are programmed for having long, persistent, obsessive, intrusive thought patterns. Because what fun would it be if we only hated ourselves for a second and then moved on?


We Traumatized Motherfuckers are programmed for having long, persistent, obsessive, intrusive thought patterns. Because what fun would it be if we only hated ourselves for a second and then moved on?

Yeah, we aren’t skilled in 1) seeing things objectively 2) processing events or 3) having emotions.


Chalk this up to our Trauma Brains. The faulty programming, the multitude of direct wiring to and from our survival compartments and emotional control centers, and the tendency to store files in the wrong locations. Plus, our poorly-developed emotional coping skills… cuz, let’s be honest, who was teaching us about having reasonable emotional responses growing up?


Instead of dealing with our issues, wiping the slate clean, and moving the fuck on… we’re more adept at running through the same uncomfortable stimuli about a trillion times in a row before it still doesn’t go away at the end of the day. Can’t let go of that potential threat to our safety - it needs to be right at the forefront of our thinking. Hey, now it’s 2am, you’ve been lying awake all night, and you have even less to take your attention away from that self-imparted torture! Sweet, game on!


Instead of dealing with our issues, wiping the slate clean, and moving the fuck on… we’re more adept at running through the same uncomfortable stimuli about a trillion times in a row before it still doesn’t go away at the end of the day. Can’t let go of that potential threat to our safety - it needs to be right at the forefront of our thinking. Hey, now it’s 2am, you’ve been lying awake all night, and you have even less to take your attention away from that self-imparted torture! Sweet, game on!

Perseverant thinking, Trauma, and Depression go hand in hand in hand… I don’t know how to separate one from the other. I know that they all lead down dangerous, shit-laden paths.




Self-punishing shame spirals


So… underlying most of these mental processes and internal dialogues, there’s another common aspect of Complex Trauma. Something I’ve talked about before, and only continue to recognize the full impact of.


Why do we punish ourselves so thoroughly, when no one else would ever give us the ear-beating that we internally prescribe to ourselves? S-H-A-M-E


If you’re not caught up on the Shame episode, let me quickly tell you a few facts. Shame is correlated with social threats - or perceived social unsafety, to be more accurate. It’s the internal mechanism for telling you that you done fucked up that recent interaction and your survival might be at jeopardy in the herd. It’s one of the self-evaluative processes that corresponds with the concept of your looking-glass-self; in other words, it’s strongly related to your inner critic, self-worth, and perceptions of yourself.


If you’re not caught up on the Shame episode, let me quickly tell you a few facts. Shame is correlated with social threats - or perceived social unsafety, to be more accurate. It’s the internal mechanism for telling you that you done fucked up that recent interaction and your survival might be at jeopardy in the herd. It’s one of the self-evaluative processes that corresponds with the concept of your looking-glass-self; in other words, it’s strongly related to your inner critic, self-worth, and perceptions of yourself.

On top of that, Shame is one of the most painful and intense emotions that we universally experience. It is a common feature of most cultures and authority functions. But at the same time, it’s considered to be an undesirable trait. We aren’t proud to admit when we’re feeling shameful; we feel shame about our shame.


This social poo-pooing causes us to shut down, zip our lips, and suffer in silence. Shame is one of the major factors that deters Trauma sufferers from speaking up about what they’ve gone through. One of the reasons why you’ve probably felt very alone in your mental illness. One of the reasons you are physically and mentally very alone in your mental illness.


Shame has an internalizing function. As a means to protect us from making the same social faux-pas in the future, we turn to self-shaming as a corrective measure. If we can just punish ourselves enough for that event that happened 2 weeks, 2 years, or 2 decades ago, maybe our idiot selves won’t make the same mistake again. Just think about it hard enough and surely you’ll never embarrass yourself in front of your 5th grade class ever again.


Shame has an internalizing function. As a means to protect us from making the same social faux-pas in the future, we turn to self-shaming as a corrective measure. If we can just punish ourselves enough for that event that happened 2 weeks, 2 years, or 2 decades ago, maybe our idiot selves won’t make the same mistake again. Just think about it hard enough and surely you’ll never embarrass yourself in front of your 5th grade class ever again.


Don’t let up - really make sure that you beat it into your brain, and don’t ever reveal yourself to others.


And, we’re right back to states of depression. Feeling down and out, individually busted up, and resolving yourself to this condition of inner torment. And all the while, you’ll likely be experiencing high levels of shame, whether or not you name it this way.


The common thread running through the assumptions of everyone hating you, your self-hate, giving in to comparisons, and having redundant thoughts is Shame. It’s probably one of your most prominent feelings during a depressive bout, although you might experience or name it as anger towards yourself, sadness, embarrassment, and/or regret.





Escapism and distress intolerance


If you’re preprogrammed to avoid negative stimuli - and you are - what’s the next step for your brain following the physical separation from the unwanted conditions? After you take yourself out of the social environment, away from threats to your herd safety, what happens next?


Do you feel relieved? Those uncomfortable emotions dissipate and your brain calms down? Or, do you continue feeling awful, but now… you’re all alone while you do it. Stuck with new stimuli that you want to avoid, without the distractions of other activities or humans.


Yeah, I think it’s clear that when we engage in isolating, self-punishing behaviors we aren’t going for a stroll in the park. We’re just filling ourselves with aversive stimulation instead of gathering it from the environment. So that’s fucking great.


Fun new game - try to avoid the sensations that are coming from inside of you! You can’t escape them, so how can you distract yourself and dull them?


Time to talk about all the shit-fuckery that comes with escapism and distress intolerance!



Feeling controlled by programmed behaviors


When I’m depressed - and therefore, throughout most days of my life - I’m not exactly “present.” I’m here, I’m paying attention to some degree, I’m aware of my environment. But my brain is on autopilot, with the ultimate goal of keeping this plane above turbulent airways in any way possible.


Instead of walking myself carefully through each action in my day, I fall back on thoughts and behaviors that aren’t being provoked from my current environment - they’re preprogrammed coping mechanisms that I’ve learned in my 30 years of dealing. Working, snacking, and in the past, streaming dumb TV shows were key examples of these avoidant behaviors.


Instead of walking myself carefully through each action in my day, I fall back on thoughts and behaviors that aren’t being provoked from my current environment - they’re preprogrammed coping mechanisms that I’ve learned in my 30 years of dealing. Working, snacking, and in the past, streaming dumb TV shows were key examples of these avoidant behaviors.

That being said, what happens to us when we’re really feeling uncomfortable? When a deep depressive spell kicks into gear and we’re just trying to fend off the anxiety, anger, and shame?


We turn to these pre-programmed behaviors ten-fold. Whether we know it, whether we like it, or not.


At a certain point, these attempts at self-soothing and distraction can feel like more than routine behaviors. They can feel like controlling factors in our lives. Behaviors that we aren’t in control of anymore. We don’t even realize that we’re choosing them, because our hands and feet are automatically moving themselves through the necessary motions.


We’re performing activities that we don’t even want to do, that aren’t bringing us any joy or real engagement, but what the fuck else is there? Sitting in silence and acknowledging the shitstorm that’s raging inside our bodies and brains?


We’re performing activities that we don’t even want to do, that aren’t bringing us any joy or real engagement, but what the fuck else is there? Sitting in silence and acknowledging the shitstorm that’s raging inside our bodies and brains?

Fuck naw, bring on the Netflix and snacks. Put my phone in my hand, 4 inches away from my face. Plug in to all the distracting stimuli possible - video games, social media, news streams.


At a certain point, these sources of entertainment don’t feel like choices. They feel like necessities. Because the alternative is tuning in to all the yelling in your own head. Distract, avoid, reduce the internal distress… or, at least, try to ignore it.




Feeling controlled by addictions


Hand in hand with pre-programmed behaviors… comes addiction. The nastier sibling of the avoidant behavior family.


Besides getting addicted to bullshit like staring at screens and cramming sugar into your mouth, there are plenty of other maladaptive ways to automatically pass the time with decreased physical awareness - this is where substance abuse enters the picture.


There’s nothing worse than waking up with a full weekend of… nothing. Well, nothing except the shame/self-hate/loneliness that fills your every waking moment. Looking ahead at 48 hours of spending time with your least favorite person? It can be panic-inducing. I mean, have you ever really considered how long a day can be? It can feel like years when you’re in continual, unescapable discomfort.


There’s nothing worse than waking up with a full weekend of… nothing. Well, nothing except the shame/self-hate/loneliness that fills your every waking moment. Looking ahead at 48 hours of spending time with your least favorite person? It can be panic-inducing. I mean, have you ever really considered how long a day can be? It can feel like years when you’re in continual, unescapable discomfort.

So what do we do?! Drink! Do drugs! Smoke cigarettes! Plus… all the lesser-addictions (I say this lightly) of modern society, like the aforementioned video games, phone-staring, internet browsing, and shit-food snacking.


And this is where our avoidant behaviors really gain momentum in the race to fully ruin our lives.


I won’t go into all the “mind-altering substances actually make the problem worse” lectures. Everyone knows that by now. Booze makes you more depressed, cigarettes make you more anxious AND depressed, filling your stomach with shitty calories has obvious mental and physical downsides.


The point is, early in life we learn to avoid the negative events that cause us harm… but ironically, we end up choosing alternative routes to self-harm as we try to avoid the original negative event - the feelings inside of ourselves. And it’s a neverending losing cycle, because those feelings aren’t going anywhere, no matter how hard you try to drown them.


All you can do is dull the pain with a bottle of whisky temporarily, and pretend you won’t have to deal with the strengthened discomfort tomorrow when you’re still filled with hate and, now, hopelessly hungover. Avoidance is a temporary solution that we knowingly try to convince ourselves will work permanently. And so we do it, day after day.

All you can do is dull the pain with a bottle of whisky temporarily, and pretend you won’t have to deal with the strengthened discomfort tomorrow when you’re still filled with hate and, now, hopelessly hungover. Avoidance is a temporary solution that we knowingly try to convince ourselves will work permanently. And so we do it, day after day.


At a certain point, we aren’t choosing any of the behavioral outcomes for ourselves. They’re automatic, unavoidable, necessities. The day when you start drinking at 9am because it’s a loooong haul to get to 9pm… yeah, that’s the day that your avoidant behavior has taken on a life of its own.


Speaking from experience, not from judgement.


Substances are easy to get into; hard to get out of.




Feeling overwhelmed to the point of suicidal ideation


What’s the ultimate form of avoidance? Fucking ending it all, amiright?


At least, in my history with suicidal ideation, I’ve never expected greatness on the other side. I’m not looking for a return home to meet my maker. I’m literally just thinking of ways to stop the days of endless torture. Avoidance to the extreme.


When you start each morning wishing that it was night so you could close your eyes and (hopefully) escape the physical and mental discomforts… you start to feel like there’s really no point to this whole life thing.


When you start each morning wishing that it was night so you could close your eyes and (hopefully) escape the physical and mental discomforts… you start to feel like there’s really no point to this whole life thing.

“Fuck, I didn’t ask to be born, and now I’m trapped reliving the same shitty experience indefinitely? I’m battling against every fiber in my being just wanting to lie down and quit… and for what? Not like I’m enjoying a second of this madness, anyways.”


When you’re just running down the clock, uninspired, unimpressed, and disengaged from life, you might as well just put a final end to it all, yeah? Why wake up tomorrow and try to kill time again? Why put temporary bandaids on all the fleshy wounds when you could just amputate the infected anatomy - your brain?


If the only life you’ve ever known has been unpleasant, unsafe, and uncomfortable, why not just escape once and for all from the cage that holds you? Nothing else has worked, plus, now you feel out of control of the entire thing with all your automatic behaviors and addictions. Climbing out of this hole is going to be harder than things ever were before.


Doesn’t it sound pleasant to just “opt out?” Unsubscribe? Find out if death is really so bad with the context of living such a miserable life? At the very least, you’ll finally get out of this groundhog’s day of predictable pain and suffering.

Doesn’t it sound pleasant to just “opt out?” Unsubscribe? Find out if death is really so bad with the context of living such a miserable life? At the very least, you’ll finally get out of this groundhog’s day of predictable pain and suffering.


Yeah, Motherfuckers, if you ask me, suicide is just avoidant behavior taken to X-games levels of determination.





Fear and learned helplessness


An aspect of depression that I don’t often hear much about is the underlying fear that drives us into our mental and emotional avoidant states.


When we close ourselves off from the world and shut down, it’s not just for shits and giggles. Our avoidance of negative stimuli is caused by fear. And fear is a function of survival. Depression is a response to feeling endangered in some way - although we rarely see it this overtly.


When we close ourselves off from the world and shut down, it’s not just for shits and giggles. Our avoidance of negative stimuli is caused by fear. And fear is a function of survival. Depression is a response to feeling endangered in some way - although we rarely see it this overtly.

For many folks, as I’ve already been focusing on, our depressive spells are sparked by a social breakdown of some sort. This causes us to believe that we’re just “being emotional” or similarly-misunderstood assertions. Your boyfriend broke up with you and you’re hurt inside. You’re depressed because you have bad feelings. Deal with it.


People rarely think about this any further. Like, why do our emotions happen in the first place? Why do they cause such immense dysfunction in our practical lives, outlook on life, and evaluation of ourselves?


It’s because our negative feelings are just internal responses to perceptions of danger in our outside worlds. They actually have a function. They aren’t just random energy fluctuations in our bodies. Emotions serve to keep us alive and stable.


When we have long bouts of negative emotions, we’re actually experiencing long periods of FEAR. With this in mind, your years of depression are actually years of your body feeling like it's under attack, unsafe, or unstable.


When we have long bouts of negative emotions, we’re actually experiencing long periods of FEAR. With this in mind, your years of depression are actually years of your body feeling like it's under attack, unsafe, or unstable.

As Motherfuckers know, we’re prone to fear responses. Our safety has been threatened since the day we were born. And over time, our brains and bodies start to adapt to these persistent threats. We fight/flight/freeze for a long time. But eventually, if our previous attempts to relieve the fear response have failed, our brains will choose a path of lesser resistance. They’ll give up.


This is how Complex Trauma sufferers have come to be characterized by my least favorite hallmark of C-PTSD; learned helplessness.




Feeling powerless


In a state of depression have you ever once felt confident, secure, and empowered? Or have you generally been meek, insecure, and hopeless?


Yeah, for me depression has always looked like the prize behind door number two. When I retract into myself, stake out my bedroom, and refuse to do much of anything with my days, it’s not because I’m feeling powerful and capable. It’s because I feel broken, inept, and at the mercy of whatever fuck-shittery is about to come my way next.


Yeah, for me depression has always looked like the prize behind door number two. When I retract into myself, stake out my bedroom, and refuse to do much of anything with my days, it’s not because I’m feeling powerful and capable. It’s because I feel broken, inept, and at the mercy of whatever fuck-shittery is about to come my way next.

It’s the same learned helplessness as we adapt in our Traumatized lives. Being trapped in unstable, abusive, and neglectful homes as children effectively teaches us that we can’t escape our fear and discomfort. As adults, we fall into depressive states when we have similar patterns of thinking and physiological reactivity.


Our brains can only engage our survival mechanisms for so long before they’re exhausted. Before we learn that trying to escape is futile. Before we roll over as a less energetically-demanding strategy to survive. Just shut down the unnecessary processes and hide. Wait for the threat to end. Oh, and fill yourself with caloric energy in case you need to fight or flee again later.


Depression is a response to overwrought survival mechanisms as much as it’s a survival mechanism, all its own. Unfortunately, it’s a maladaptive one that doesn’t functionally serve us in our modern way of living.


In the distant history of humankind, it probably helped to sequester ourselves to our dark caves in times of danger. To cut ties with our old tribes if we detected social unsafety. To conserve our energy and wait for a more pleasant environment outside.


In the distant history of humankind, it probably helped to sequester ourselves to our dark caves in times of danger. To cut ties with our old tribes if we detected social unsafety. To conserve our energy and wait for a more pleasant environment outside.

In our daily lives during the 21st century, though, this is how we stop functioning in society. We lose our jobs. We diminish all of our friendships. We let our physical health degrade. And these factors increase our sense of being in danger, therefore strengthening our depressive responses even further.


When we learn that escape is futile, we give up trying. When we give up trying, we wait for some magical fix to come along and save the day. We beat ourselves up even harder when that white knight doesn’t arrive or our misguided attempts at helping ourselves with shallow bandaids don’t pan out. We confirm our own helplessness.


We fall deeper into depression and Trauma responses.




Long-term freeze states


To wrap this up with one more point… If depression is a long-term fear response, what fear response, exactly?


Of course, it’s Freeze.


We Traumatized folks already have a penchant for trigger-happy flight/fright/freeze/fawn responses thanks to our powerful amygdala and thalamus pathways and overzealous survival brains. As I’ve detailed before, we also have a tendency to fall into Freeze responses for longer periods than our survival requires.


Rather than having an instantaneous response to acute danger that quickly fades as the stimuli is removed, we can get “stuck” in a Freeze state. This is where our blank brains, inability to move, lack of interest, and loss of words comes from.

Rather than having an instantaneous response to acute danger that quickly fades as the stimuli is removed, we can get “stuck” in a Freeze state. This is where our blank brains, inability to move, lack of interest, and loss of words comes from.


Over long periods of time, this experience is synonymous with Depression. To pull it all together, an enduring Freeze response is also functionally the same as learned helplessness.


I’m in danger, I can’t do anything to change the circumstances, and so I will hold still and wait for the danger to pass. This is depression.






Wrap it


Alright, I hope this long look into the correlations between Traumatized adaptations and Depression made some sense. If you’ve wondered why you’re consistently at risk of falling into a depressive state, know that it’s all connected with the trauma brain programming that you’re running.


Depression is a function of survival, just like our fucked up, difficult to understand, Trauma Brains. Try to separate one from the next, and find yourself in the classic chicken-egg scenario. Those early trauma experiences leave their mark and leave us susceptible to maladaptive attempts to survive.


Depression is a function of survival, just like our fucked up, difficult to understand, Trauma Brains. Try to separate one from the next, and find yourself in the classic chicken-egg scenario. Those early trauma experiences leave their mark and leave us susceptible to maladaptive attempts to survive.

I hope that exploring this connection might be enlightening for those of us who fall into long term depressions and can’t seem to claw our way out. “Looking on the bright side,” won’t work. Waiting for someone or something to break your depressive streak won’t be a lasting solution. Avoiding the discomfort with substances is going to drive you down a different dysfunctional road.


Treating your trauma, gaining a realistic view of your personal safety, and finding a sense of empowerment to change your world will help make the difference that you’re looking for. Your brain needs help turning off some of those well-meaning fear responses.


Autonomy, realistic thinking, and personal growth are the keys to rewiring your automatic activation and thinking patterns. And the fastest way towards any of these impossible-sounding measures isn’t yoga, toxic-positive thinking, or bootstrap-pulling. It’s finding a mental health professional and starting to rework your brain so you can rebuild your world.


If you test your inner strength, you’ll see evidence of your inner strength. You’ll stop living in so much fear. You’ll stop hiding from the world and waiting for safer days. You’ll learn to construct your own world and find safety in your evaluation of self.

If you test your inner strength, you’ll see evidence of your inner strength. You’ll stop living in so much fear. You’ll stop hiding from the world and waiting for safer days. You’ll learn to construct your own world and find safety in your evaluation of self.


But first, you have to wash the Cheeto dust off your face and leave the fucking house.



Traumatized Motherfxckers

Not doomed. Not damaged.

Not dead yet.

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